HELP HEAVENWARD by Octavius Winslow

"Progressive Meetness for Heaven"

“And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive
out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from be-fore
thee. I will not drive them out from before thee in
one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of
the field multiply against thee. By little and little I will
drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased,
and inherit the land”—EXOD. 23:28-30.
Sanctification—or heavenly meetness—is an initial work in the great
process by which God prepares the soul for glory. Justification,
that imminent act of His free grace by which the soul is brought
into a state of Divine acceptance, is a present and a complete work.
The moment a believing sinner accepts Christ, and is clothed upon
with His imputed righteousness, that moment he is in possession
of the Divine title-deed to the inheritance of the saints in light.
Thus, justification, because it is an imputed, and sanctification,
because it is an imparted act, though cognate doctrines, are dis-tinct
works, and must not be—as the Papacy has done, and as many
Protestants, with scarcely more light, blindly do—considered as
identical. By one act of faith in Christ we are justified; but it is by
a gradual work of the Spirit that we are sanctified. It is a solemn
declaration, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” There is
no vision of God, either present or future, save through the me-dium
of holiness. A holy God can only be seen with an enlightened
and sanctified eye. The spiritual vision must be “anointed with eye-salve.”
The Divine Oculist must couch the moral cataract, must
remove the film of sin, ignorance, and prejudice from the mental
eye, ere one ray of Divine holiness can dart in upon the retina of
the soul. As one born blind cannot see the sun, so the soul morally
blind cannot see God. Therefore our Lord said to Nicodemus, “Ex-cept
a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” He
cannot see it, because he is not a subject of the new and second
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birth. We have remarked that this work of holiness is initiatory,
and therefore not complete. It is real, but progressive; certain, but
gradual; and although in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, God
can fit the believer for heaven, it yet goes forward little and by
little until it reaches the culminating point, and then the door of
glory opens, and receives to its bosom the soul fitted for its purity
and bliss.
In supplying the reader with a few helps heavenward, we plant
his feet upon one of the lowest rounds of the ladder, when we, at
this early stage of our subject, direct his thoughts to progressive
meetness for heaven. And we the more advisedly and earnestly do
this because of the crude and imperfect views of heavenliness which
many, especially young Christians, entertain, and in consequence
of which are involved in much legality of mind and distress of soul.
We have selected, as illustrating this important doctrine, an inci-dent
in the early settlement of the Israelites in Canaan. It was
God’s arrangement that they should colonize the land amidst its
many and idolatrous inhabitants; who, so far from sympathizing
with their habits and worship, presented an antagonistic and for-midable
aspect: so that, while it was a land of rest and affluence, it
was yet a scene of perpetual invasion and conflict, demanding on
their part the watchful eye and the furbished weapon. Now the
God who planted them in the promised land could as easily have
exterminated their foes; not so—but, for reasons which His wis-dom
would dictate, and which His goodness would justify, He per-mitted
the inhabitants to continue in possession, until, by a pro-cess
gradual and progressive, Canaan should be decimated of its
idolatrous population, and His own people should go up into its
length and breadth, and fully possess the land which the Lord their
God gave them. “By little and little I will drive them out from be-fore
you.” How strikingly are the two cognate yet distinct doc-trines
of the glorious gospel—justification and sanctification—il-lustrated
here;—the planting the children of Israel in Canaan illus-trates
the present justification of the Church of God; their pro-tracted
conquest of the land illustrates the gradual subjugation of
the believer’s sinfulness to the supremacy of holiness, or, in other
words, his progressive meetness for heaven.
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Now let us trace more fully the analogy between this part of
Israel’s history, and the spiritual experience of the Church of God,
and of every individual member of that Church. Oh that the Di-vine
Spirit may be our Teacher, His grace our anointing, Christ the
first, the centre, and the last, and our advanced meetness for heaven
the personal and happy result of our meditation upon this sacred
truth! And if, child of God, heaven shall be brought nearer to your
soul, and your soul’s meetness for heaven be promoted, we shall
thank our heavenly Father for this advanced step; and, strength-ened
and cheered, we shall seek another and yet another, and so
ascend, until, reaching the highest round, we find ourselves in
heaven.
Canaan was a land of rest: it was that good land in which the
Israelites were to terminate their long and wearisome march in
sweet and delightsome repose. The moment a poor believing soul
is brought to Jesus, he is brought to rest. “We which have believed
do enter into rest.” The instant that he crosses the border that sepa-rates
the covenant of works from the covenant of grace, the mo-ment
that he emerges from the wilderness of his doings and toil—
his “going about to establish a righteousness of his own”—and en-ters
believingly into Christ, he is at rest. The true Joshua has brought
him into Canaan, has brought him to Himself; and his long travel-ling,
weary soul is at peace with God through Christ. “For he that
is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as
God did from his.” Behold the rest! It is Jesus. His finished work—
His blood and righteousness—His law-fulfilling obedience—and
His justice-satisfying death, give perfect rest from guilt and con-demnation
and sorrow to him that simply enters—though it be but
a border-touch of faith—into Jesus. Oh, art thou a sin-burdened, a
wilderness-wearied soul? Art thou seeking rest in the law, in con-victions
of sin, in pious duties, in churches and sacraments?—each
one exclaiming, “It is not in me!” Turn from these, and bend your
listening ear to the gentle voice of your gracious Saviour—“Come
unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you
rest.” What wondrous words are these! Tell me not that you are
too sinful, and unworthy to come; that you are too vile to lay your
head upon that sacred bosom; too guilty to bathe in that cleansing
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stream; too poor to clothe you in that Divine righteousness. I reply,
Jesus bids you come. Can you, dare you, refuse? The instant that
you cease to labour, and enter believing savingly into Christ, that
instant you are safe within the City of Refuge, beyond the reach of
sin, and condemnation, and the law’s curse, and the uplifted arm
of the avenger of blood: in a word, you are at rest. “Being justified
by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The present tense—we have peace.
But notwithstanding this perfect state of pardon, justification,
and rest, into which the believing soul is brought, is sin utterly and
totally extirpated from his bosom? In other words, because for-giveness
is complete, and acceptance is complete, is sanctification
complete? Far from it, beloved. It is a good land and a wealthy, a
land of peace and rest, into which grace has led us, but it is, never-theless,
a land besieged by foes—for the Canaanites still dwell
therein—and of consequent warfare. The believer has to fight his
way to heaven. In the soul, in the centre of the very heart where
perfect rest and peace are experienced, there dwell innate and
powerful corruptions, ever invading our peaceful possessions, seek-ing
to disturb our repose, and to bring us into subjection. “O
wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this
death?”
Observe, too, these inhabitants of the land interposed a pow-erful
barrier between the Israelites and their full possession. They
were at best but borderers. They had, indeed, passed the confines
of the desert, and pressed the soil of the promised land, but how
small a portion of the vast territory did they as yet occupy! Far
beyond them, stretching in luxuriant beauty, were vine-clad hills,
and flowing rivers, acres of wheat and barley and pomegranates,
fountains and depths that spring out of valleys, which they had not
as yet explored. Is not this a picture of our spiritual state? How
much interposes between us and our spiritual possessions! What
keeps us from the “abundant entrance” into the kingdom of grace,
but our ever-present and ever-sleepless enemy, unbelief? What pre-vents
a more full and cordial acceptance of the righteousness of
Christ, but a constant dealing with our own unrighteousness? What
keeps us from enjoying more of heaven upon earth, but the too
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absorbing influence of the world? What causes us to live so far
below the privilege of our high vocation—bedwarfs our Christian-ity,
lowers our profession, shades the lustre and impairs the vigour
of our holy religion—but the depravity, the corruption, the sin,
that dwelleth in us? These are the spiritual Canaanites which pre-vent
our going up to possess the good land in its length and breadth.
What an evidence this, that, though our Lord Jesus has put us into
a state of present and complete acceptance, we have not as yet
attained unto a state of perfect and future holiness—the Canaanites
still dwell in the land! We are called to “fight the good fight of faith.”
Not only do we war with flesh and blood, but we “wrestle against
principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of
this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” But why
should this check our advance? Why should the existence and ever-threatening
attitude of our foes prevent us from living upon a full
Christ, a present Christ, a loving Christ, day by day, hour by hour,
moment by moment? Clad in our invincible armour, why should
we not carve our way through the serried ranks of our foes, and
penetrate into the heart of Canaan, and pluck thence the grapes,
and gather the honey, and drink of the fountains, and explore the
hidden things which God has treasured for us in the covenant of
grace, in the fulness of our Surety Head, in the infinite greatness of
His own love, and in the unsearchable riches of His gospel—His
revealed truth? Oh, how much of the good land remains yet to be
possessed! Truly, “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have
entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared
for them that love him.” Well might the grateful Psalmist exclaim,
and each believer in Jesus respond, “O how great is thy goodness
which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee!”
There is one view of this truth exceedingly helpful to Zion’s
travellers; we refer to the facts that God is never unmindful of the
trying and critical position of His people—dwelling in the midst of
their enemies, and their enemies dwelling in the midst of them.
He knows all your corruptions, your infirmities, your easy-beset-ting
sin, weakness, and frailty. He has, too, His unslumbering eye
upon all the stratagems and assaults of Satan—never, for an in-stant,
losing sight of, or ceasing to control and check this subtle and
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sleepless foe. Never does thy Lord forget that the body He has
redeemed is yet a “body of sin and death,” and that the soul He has
ransomed with His most precious blood, is still the seat of prin-ciples,
passions, and thoughts inimical to its perfect holiness, and
ever seeking to subjugate it to the body. Did not Jesus recognize
this truth when He said to His disciples, “Behold, I send you forth
as sheep in the midst of wolves.” What expressive words! Sheep in
the midst of wolves! Who can save them? The Shepherd who gave
His life for them, the “Lion of the tribe of Judah”—He will keep,
shield, and preserve them. Oh, take the encouragement and com-fort
which this truth gives—that thy Lord knoweth thy exposure
to, and thy conflict with, the enemies of the land,—that you have
on your side, allied with you in this spiritual warfare, His loving
heart, His watchful eye, His outstretched arm, and all His legions
of angels sent forth to encircle you with chariots of fire. Ah! the
world may taunt you with your infirmities, the saints may chide
you for your haltings, your own heart may condemn you for its
secret declensious, but God, your Father, is very pitiful, and re-members
that you are dust; and Jesus, your Advocate, is very com-passionate,
and prays for you within the vail. The saints judge, the
world censures, the heart is self-abased; but Christ says, “I con-demn
thee not: go, and sin no more.”
But we have the promise of conquest. God assured the Israel-ites
that He would drive out the Canaanites from before them.
Have we an assurance less emphatic, or a hope less joyous? What is
the promise of this, which appears one of the brightest constella-tions
in the glorious galaxy of the “exceeding great and precious
promises” of God? It is, “He will turn again, he will have compas-sion
upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all
our sins into the depths of the sea.” What a largess, what an accu-mulation
of blessings, what blest encouragement and heart-cheer
to the downcast traveller! “He will turn again.” Again! He has turned
His loving eye, His outstretched hand, a thousand times over; what!
will He “turn again?” After all my baseness and ingratitude; my
sins without confession; my confession without repentance; my re-pentance
without forsaking; my forsakings so reluctant, so partial,
and so short—what! will He turn to me again, bend upon me once
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more that loving eye, that forgiving look, that dissolves my heart at
His feet? Oh, who is a God like unto thee! And what, when He
turns again, will He do? He will drive out the Canaanites from
before us. In other words, “He will SUBDUE our iniquities.” What
encouragement this to fall down at His feet—the feet that never
spurned a humble suppliant—and cry with His people of old, “Lord,
we have no might against this great company that cometh against
us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.” With
such faith, and such an appeal, what sin will not God pardon, what
iniquity will not Christ subdue, against what confederate host will
not the Spirit of the Lord lift up a standard?
But let us not mistake our true position in this holy contest. It
is both aggressive and defensive. The children of Israel were not to
allow the inhabitants of the land to remain intact. They were to go
up armed, and drive back the foe. Thus is it with us. When our
Lord, the “Prince of peace,” commanded, “he that hath no sword
let him sell his garment, and buy one.” He doubtless intended it as
significant of the spiritual conflict in which they were to be en-gaged;
for, the temporal sword He never authorized in defense or
propagation of His truth. We are to be aggressive upon the terri-tory
of sin and of error, of ignorance and of the world. To these
confederate hosts—the Canaanites of the Church—we are to
present a bold, united, antagonistic front. The Bible nowhere ig-nores,
but, on the contrary, everywhere recognizes, the individual
responsibility of the Christian. What means the exhortation, “Put
on the whole armour of God?” What the injunction, “Work out your
own salvation with fear and trembling?” What but that, dwelling in
an enemy’s land—the Canaanite, and the Ammonite, and the
Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, all com-bined
against us—we are to “resist unto blood, striving against sin,”
and “to fight the good fight of faith,”—to “keep the body under, and
bring it into subjection,”—to “overcome the world”—to “resist the
devil,”—to “keep ourselves in the love of God”—and, “having done
all, to stand”— standing with girded loins, waiting and watching
for the coming of our Captain. O child of God! be not cast down
and discouraged in this holy war. The Lord, He it is that fights for
you. By prayer, by vigilance, by the sword of the Spirit, which is
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the word of God, by keeping out of temptation, by doubling the
picket where you are the most exposed to the invasion of the foe—
above all, by bearing your conflicts to Christ, linking your weak-ness
with His strength, your infirmity with His grace, the errings
of your heart, the faltering of your feet, the hidden conflict of your
mind and will with evil, to His most tender, most reasonable, most
forgiving love; thus will He teach your hands to war and your fin-gers
to fight, and thus shall you exclaim, “With Christ strengthen-ing
me, I can do all things.”
We have arrived now at a deeply-interesting and instructive
part of this chapter—the progressive meetness of the believer for
heaven. “By little and little I will drive them out from before thee.”
If it so pleased Him, God could as instantaneously mature our
sanctification as He perfects our justification. By one stroke of His
arm He could have extirpated the idolatrous inhabitants of Canaan,
and have caused His flock to lie down in quiet places. But it was
His wisdom, love, and glory that they should be driven out “by
little and little.” We must resolve the circumstance of God’s per-missive
will touching the indwelling of sin in the believer, into the
same view of His character. His wisdom appoints it—His will per-mits
it—His love controls it. Where would be the display of His
grace and power in the soul, as it is now exhibited in the daily life
of a child of God, but for the existence of a nature partially sancti-fied?
How little should we learn of the mysteries of the life of
faith,—how imperfectly skilled in the heavenly war,—how stag-nant
the well of living water within us—how bedwarfed and para-lyzed
every grace of the soul,—how partial our knowledge of God,—
how little our acquaintance with Christ,—how small a measure of
the indwelling power of the Holy Ghost,—how little holy wres-tling
with the Angel of the Covenant,—how faint the incense of
prayer,—and how distant and dim an object to our spiritual vision
the cross of Christ, but for the gradual subduing of our iniquities,
the driving from before us “by little and little” our corruptions, the
progressive advance of the soul in its holy, sanctified meetness for
heaven!
Yes, it is “by little and little” this holy work is done! Here the
power of a sin is weakened, there the spell of a temptation is bro-
Progressive Meetness For Heaven 21
ken; here an advancing foe is foiled, there a deep-laid plot is dis-covered;
and thus “by little and little,” by a gradual process, aggres-sive
and defensive, of spiritual encounter and extermination, the
spiritual Canaanites are subdued, and the soul becomes “meetened
for the inheritance of the saints in light.”
The subject presented in this chapter is replete with instruc-tion,
encouragement, and help heavenward. Many of the Lord’s
people are looking for the full, the complete sanctification which
the Lord has not appointed here, and which is only attained when
the last bond of corruption is severed. The more deeply the chil-dren
of Israel explored the good land, the more intelligently and
experimentally they became acquainted with the number and power
of their enemies. Thus it is we are taught. Ignorance of our own
heart, a false idea of the strength of our corruption, a blind, undue
estimate of the number and tact of our inbeing sins, is not favourable
to our growth in holiness. But the Holy Spirit leads us deeper and
deeper into self-knowledge, shews us more and more of the hid-den
evil, unvails by little and little the chamber of imagery, teaches
us “line upon line, here a little and there a little;” and thus, by a
gradual and progressive process, we are made meet for glory. Are
you, beloved reader, like the children of Israel, conscious of im-poverishment
by the marauding incursions of the enemy? then, do
as they did—cry unto the Lord. Thus we read—“And Israel was
greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of
Israel cried unto the Lord,” (Judges 6:6.) Oh, besiege the throne of
grace, and your foes shall be driven back! Cry mightily unto Jesus,
your Commander and Leader, the Captain of your salvation, and
He will defeat their plots and deliver you from their power. Tell
Him that you hate sin, and loathe yourselves because of its exist-ence
and taint. Tell Him you long to be holy, pant to be delivered
from the last remnant of corruption, and that the heavenly voice
that bids you unclasp your wings and soar to a world of perfect
purity, will be the sweetest and the dearest that ever chimed upon
your ear. O blessed moment! with what splendour has the hand of
prophecy portrayed it before the eye:—“In that day shall there be
upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS unto THE LORD; and the
pots in the Lord’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar. Yea,
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every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord
of hosts; and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and
see the therein: AND IN THAT DAY THERE SHALL BE NO
MORE THE CANAANITE IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD OF
HOSTS.” (Zech. 14:20, 21.) O blessed day! when all false doc-trine,
and all superstitious worship, and all indwelling sin, and all
worldly temptation, and all self-seeking, and iniquity of every name,
and sorrow of every form, shall be utterly exterminated, and HO-LINESS
TO THE LORD shall hallow every enjoyment, and con-secrate
every thing, and enshrine every being. Speed, oh speed the
day, blessed Redeemer, when every throb of my heart, and every
faculty of my mind, and every power of my soul, and every aspira-tion
of my lips, and every glance of my eye, yea, every thought and
word and deed, shall be HOLINESS TO THE LORD! “Oh, pre-cious
day of God, when will it arrive? Shall the lovers of Jesus be
indeed delivered from all false pastors, all corrupt worship, and
the Lord have turned to the people a pure language, that they may
all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent?
Shall my soul indeed be freed, not only from all the sorrows, pains,
evils, and afflictions of sin around me, but, what is infinitely better
than all, from the very being and indwelling of sin within me? Shall
the fountain of corruption, both of original and actual sin be dried
up, so that I shall never think a vain thought, nor speak an idle,
sinful word any more? Is there such a day in which the Canaanites
shall be wholly driven out? Oh, blessed, precious, precious prom-ise!
Oh, dearest Jesus! to what a blessed state hast Thou begotten
poor sinners of the earth by Thy blood and righteousness! Hasten
it, Lord. Cut short Thy work, Thou that art mighty to save, and
take Thy willing captive home from myself, and all the remaining
Canaanites yet in the land, which are the very tyrants of my soul”
(Hawker). Welcome, oh welcome, beloved, every circumstance,
every dispensation, every trial that speeds you homeward, and
matures your soul for the heaven of glory Christ has gone to pre-pare
for you. It is “by little and by little,” not all at once, that
believers fight the battle and obtain the victory: “They go from
strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.”
Your path to glory shall be as the light, shining with ever-growing,
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ever-deepening, ever-brightening lustre of truth, grace, and holi-ness,
until you find yourself lost amidst the splendours of a perfect
and eternal day! Onward, traveller, onward! From an earthly, you
are passing to a heavenly Canaan, in which no foe enters, and from
which no friend departs,—where eternity will be prolonged, as time
began, in a paradise of perfect purity and love,—amidst whose ver-dant
bowers lurks no subtle serpent, and along whose sylvan wind-ings
treads no ensnaring Eve. Shudder not to pass the Jordan that
divides the earthly from the heavenly Canaan. The Ark of the Cov-enant
will go before you, upborne upon the shoulder of your great
High Priest, cleaving the waters as you pass, and conducting you,
gently, softly, and triumphantly, home to God.
“I saw an aged Pilgrim,
Whose toilsome march was o’er,
With slow and painful footstep
Approaching Jordan’s shore:
He first his dusty vestment
And sandals cast aside,
Then, with an air of transport,
Enter’d the swelling tide.
“I thought to see him shudder,
As cold the waters rose,
And fear’d lest o’er him, surging,
The murky stream should close;
But calmly and unshrinking,
The billowy path he trod,
And cheer’d with Jesus’ presence,
Pass’d o’er the raging flood.
“On yonder shore to greet him,
I saw a shining throng;
Some just begun their praising,
Some had been praising long;
With joy they bade him welcome,
And struck their harps again,
While through the heavenly arches
Peal’d the triumphal strain.
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“Now in a robe of glory,
And with a starry crown,
I see the weary Pilgrim
With Kings and Priests sit down;
With Prophets, Patriarchs, Martyrs,
And Saints, a countless throng,
He chants his great deliverance,
In never-ceasing song.”
American—Anon.